Blog: Through Testimony

My homage to Mr. Laks

Mon, 11/09/2015 - 8:44am -- deanna.pitre

Contributor: Kátia Lerner

Mon, 11/09/2015 - 8:44am

In December 1995, USC Shoah Foundation, then called, Survivors of the Shoah Foundation, held a training session for interviewers in Buenos Aires; bringing together people from different countries of Latin America. The Foundation had just started to collect the survivors’ testimonies throughout the world and was about to start recording testimonies in Brazil.

Mr. Aleksander Henrik Laks was a member of the Brazilian group and very excited about the project. He faced it as a new opportunity to carry on the task he had started long before: To keep the promise he had made to his father to tell the world what they had experienced during the Holocaust.

A photo of Alexander Laks from his testimony preserved in the Visual History Archive, Mr. Laks survived World War II and like his companions, knew the importance of telling his story. Sharing his suffering gave a new meaning to his life. He gave his testimony tirelessly in both Jewish and non-Jewish schools, emphasizing the importance memory and tolerance, two notions that went together. He was the founder and president of Survivors’ of the Holocaust Organization (Sherit Ha Pleita) of Rio de Janeiro.

The students loved him and produced countless reports expressing how moved they were after listening to him. When he joined the newly formed team of Brazilian interviewers, his presence was instrumental in the identification of the survivors living in Rio de Janeiro. He was the first interviewee in town and took part at the project as an interviewer as well. Mr. Laks passed away on July 21, 2015. Honored by the Jewish and non-Jewish community of Rio de Janeiro, and throughout the world, he leaves a legacy of kindness and affection - the example of a person who dedicated his life struggling for a better world.


"My son, I can’t walk anymore, but you must go on. You’ll probably survive. And, if you do survive, be sure to tell what happened to us.If at least one single person believes you, you’ll have done your part.” (Fragments of Mr. Laks' autobiography, Laks and Sender, 2000: 127)

Posts are contributed by individual authors. The opinions are solely the authors’ and are not necessarily a reflection of the views of USC Shoah Foundation.

About Kátia Lerner

Kátia Lerner worked as interviewer and Regional Assistant Coordinator for USC Shoah Foundation in Rio de Janeiro from 1996 to 1999. After that period, she continued her work as liaison until 2012. Katia received an MA in Social Communication and a PhD in Cultural Anthropology, both at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Her thesis analyzes the process of shaping the memory of the Holocaust taking as object of study the then called Survivors of the Holocaust Visual History Foundation (from 1994 to 2001). She received the Mario de Andrade Prize in 2008 – a Brazilian prize for thesis about Memory, Museums and Cultural Heritage. Katia is researcher and professor at the Institute of Scientific and Technological Communication and Information in Health Graduate Program of ICICT/FIOCRUZ. In her academic career she has approached the following topics: memory, subjectivity, suffering, trauma, testimony, Holocaust, disease and media.

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